Outside the Camp

Hebrews 13:8‑16  •  36 min. read  •  grade level: 9
3:8-16IN considering the distinctiveness of the place into which God has called the believer, whether as to Himself, as to Satan, or as to the world, in either or both of its aspects-whether worldly or religious-we have seen what the truth which sanctifies reveals, namely, that the Lord Jesus, by taking in grace His people's place has made their place in righteousness. The fitness of the Lord thus to take His people's place has been already considered, also the fact of His having done so as regards God and as regards Satan. The result to the believer as regards God we have seen from the word to be his reconciliation to God, his introduction into His presence. Cleansed from all his guilt, associated with the risen Man at God's right hand, in whom the believer is, as to his place before God, taken into favor in the Beloved, in the relationship of a ' child to God, who has now been revealed as Father. The result to the believer as regards Satan is that he is delivered from his power, that power being broken when the Lord, through death, " destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; " and is delivered from that bondage in which he all his lifetime was through fear of death. What we have now to consider is the Lord in grace taking His place as man in the world, that we may learn therefrom our true place as regards it.
From John 1:1414And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14), we have already seen the Lord was made flesh. He mine down to this earth and walked a man among men, full of grace and truth, the declarer of the Father. If we refer to verses 10, 11, of this chapter, we shall see there the reception man accorded Him at the very outset of His career. "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not." He who was Himself the Creator of all, stood in the midst of the creation He had formed, hut it knew Him not. There were, however, others with whom He had relationship more intimate than with the world around, " his own " people of Israel, a people chosen of God from among the nations of the earth, a people carefully instructed to look forward to the coming One. To these He came. How did they receive Him 9 " He came unto his own, and his own received him not.", Thus, at the very outset of His career, instead of being received by the world He is rejected.
If we turn next to Luke 4:1616And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. (Luke 4:16), we shall see there also the enmity of men to this blessed One who came down in grace among them. Having met and foiled the enemy in those forty days of temptation in the wilderness, as we have already seen,. he comes to Nazareth, goes into the synagogue, opens the book, and, after having read a portion from the prophet Esaias, pours forth such words of grace as man had never heard before. Man is attracted by the sound of grace. " They wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth." It was an unwonted sound in their ears. But while wondering at the grace, the evil of man's heart comes out: they recognize the lowly place He had in grace taken in order to bring Himself near to them-" Is not this Joseph's son? "-and take advantage of it to despise Him and refuse the grace He proclaimed. This being so, the Lord turns the light of truth on their consciences; He brings to their mind what had happened in the day of Elijah, when Israel had departed from God-a day when God passed beyond the bounds of Israel and sent his servant to a poor gentile widow of Sarepta, by her to be sustained, and to that poor gentile He displayed His grace. Again, in the days of Elisha, God had, in the exercise of His grace, passed beyond the limits of an apostate, grace-despising people, and, though many lepers were in Israel, that grace took up and healed a poor Assyrian leper. Thus, by bringing truth to bear, He Warns them against despising grace, lest, despising it, God would do as He had done before, and carry His grace beyond them to others.
The effect of this is to bring out the true character of the heart of man in its enmity against God and grace: " All they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong." Such is the reception accorded by man to this One full of grace and truth at the opening of His ministry among them!
Nor was it different at the close. Look for a moment at the 22nd chapter of this gospel. Here I find the Lord Jesus Christ, having been in this scene where he ever " went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil "-here I find Him betrayed by His friend, subjected to the mockery and indignities of those He had permitted to take Him, and arraigned before the chief priests. No impartial trial was His: Another gospel (Mark) supplies us with the fact that they " sought witness against Jesus-to put him to death; " yet none could they find. But they will not be baulked of their purpose; bent on that purpose-His death-they will condemn Him by any means. In reply to their question, "Art thou, then, the Son of God?" He witnesses that part of the good confession which would most deeply involve Him with them: " Ye say that I am; " and, for this witness of the truth, is condemned. Brought before the Roman governor, as we see in the next chapter, He witnesses the second part of the good confession -that which would tend to involve Him with Pilate. In answer to the question, "Art thou the king of the Jews? " His reply is, " Thou sayest it."
And now, just as Christ has witnessed the good confession in the presence of those who would condemn Him, God is careful to establish a testimony to the spotlessness of that blessed One, and that through the heathen judge himself. Pilate says, " I find no fault in this man." Again, on His return from Herod, to whom He had been sent, the testimony of Pilate, based on Herod's action. towards the Lord, is still the same: " Nothing worthy of death." And Be saying the Roman governor seeks to release Him. But no, not so would they have it; their heart " is fully set in them to do evil," and nothing will satisfy their dire enmity save " away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas." Was ever such a picture of the heart of man? Here we have, as it were, two men presented to them from which to choose one: the one, a Man who had in his own person presented God in grace to men-One who had gone about amongst them ministering grace to them in every possible way-God's Man; the other, a man who had in his own person presented the characteristics of Satan—corruption and violence-Satan's man. Which will they choose, Satan's man, Barabbas, is the man of man's choice, while for the Man of God's choice nothing will satisfy them but a cross: " Crucify him, crucify him "-the further appeal of the Roman governor only furnishing opportunity for a more determined expression of their hatred: " They were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified... And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required." They would have it so. It was their will, and to that will was delivered by the guilty governor the blessed One who had gone about doing good, the only one since the fall of man on whom God's eye could rest with perfect complacency, the one concerning whom He could, in expressing the affection of His heart, say, " This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The only place the world would give to Him was a cross. Thus we learn the reception and place accorded by the world to the Lord of glory come in grace and love, a man amongst men.
If we view the Lord's path while passing through this world, we find that He, ever walked in the most absolute separation from it. As to place in it, He, though Creator of all, though Son of man who is to have all, had not where to lay His head. As to association, His path was one of distinct separation. In speaking to the Jews, in John 8:2323And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. (John 8:23), He distinctly tells them He is not of this world. He, though in it, belonged to another sphere. In John 10:3636Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? (John 10:36) we find another passage referring to this; He says to the Jews: " Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world," etc. He came down' from. God into this scene on God's behalf, separate from everything in it, carrying out the mission on which He came. Then in chapter 17. He twice repeats this truth, That He was not of the world. In verse 14 He would seem to refer rather to the fact that, while passing through it, He was not of it-that is as to association. He was truly a man in the midst of it, going through it, but He was not of the world through which He went. In verse 16 He perhaps speaks rather in view of His own proper place as outside of, not belonging to, not coming from, this world.
Such was the place of the Son of man in this world. Let us now see the result flowing from the cross to those associated with this world-rejected One-the result to them as regards the worldly world.
In writing to the Galatians Paul, in chapter 1:4, speaks of the object the Lord had in view in giving Himself for His people: " Who gave himself for our sins;" but, besides, " that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father."
There is the effect of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. Its result to the soul that believes in Him is deliverance from this evil world through which he is passing. In Gal. 6:1414But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Galatians 6:14). we find the, Apostle speaking of the effect of the cross on himself, a believer, as regards the world. He says, " God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Paul had looked upon this world as a place where good was to be found; but in the cross of Christ he has discovered the true character of it. It was a corrupt, guilty thing, and had at the cross cast out in rejection the only one who truly manifested good, who was for, and displayed, God in this scene. That One the world took and nailed to a cross. By that cross the world was henceforth crucified to Paul, and Paul, who had found his all in the One it crucified, was crucified to it.
Do we, like Paul of old, enter into this true and legitimate effect of the cross as regards the world? There is not a believer who is not thankful for the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, because through it he is cleared from the guilt of his sins, in it he sees the condemnation of his nature as a child of Adam, and deliverance therefrom. But that is not all the result flowing from the work of the cross. The cross of Christ has also come between the believer and the world. The effect of the cross of Christ is to draw the line of separation between everyone that believes in Him and the world that has rejected Him. This being so, the only way in which believers can enter into association with the worldly world around is by stepping over the line of separation which their Lord has made between them and it by the sacrifice of Himself. What must be the character of such an action in the eye of God, who judges all things in the light? What the dishonor to the Christ who loves us, and has given Himself for us? What the loss, incalculable, to our own souls? May we truly recognize and act according to this result to us, as regards the world, of the cross of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Num. 31 furnishes us with an illustration of the inevitable consequences of joining affinity with the world. Israel, following the counsel of Balaam, had joined affinity with the Midianites; they had formed associations with the world. The result of their doing so is that they prepare conflict for themselves. Here they have to go forth to war against the very people with whom they had joined affinity. The word of the Lord to Moses is: " Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites;" and Moses' word to the people: "Avenge the Lord of Midian." Just so do believers prepare conflict for themselves by forming association with the world. The time is sure to come when they will have to treat as foes the very people with whom they have joined affinity. It is blessed to see, however, that when there is true readiness to break with all that would ensnare, God gives full victory; so it was with Israel, so it is with the believer.
If, it be asked, What place, then, is the believer to have in the world? the answer is, The place his Master had. What place was that? No place. The believer, then, is to have no place either. It is not place or portion in this world that the Lord presents to His disciples, but the cross; as He said (Matt. 16:2424Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)), " If any man will come after me (the world-rejected One), let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me." In John 15 from verse 12, the Lord instructs His disciples as His friends. Mark what He tells them in verse 19: " If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." Here we find the believer's place as regards, and the portion he is to expect from, the world through which he is passing. He is not of it, but chosen out of it by Christ, and while in it has from it the portion his Lord had -hatred.
Again, in John 17;14;16 " I have given them thy word; the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." In verse 14, the point, seems to be that the believer, though in the world, is not of it-that is, as to association; and in verse 16 the point seems rather that the believer is one who, by faith, recognizes that his place is in another sphere-in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, not yet, though soon, to be with Him there. His place of acceptance there marks our place, of acceptance with the Father; and our place there determines our place here as regards the world through which we at present pass.
The Lord give us to recognize that, through the cross, He has entirely separated us from this world, and, recognizing that, may we through grace walk according to it. The great things in the world are not half so ensnaring as the little-things; the heart is afraid of the great things,-but is prone to allow itself in the little things-. We do well to remember that it is " the little—foxes that spoil the vines." If these have been at work, may we know what it is to take them by self-judgment, so that the place of separation from the world, which is ours through the cross of our Lord, may be maintained in all its integrity to His honor and our blessing.
It is because this separation from the world is not maintained by believers that they so fail to enter into the joys of the relationship into which God has brought them to Himself-that of children to a father, and the portion He has given them. Separation, therefore, from the world is indispensably necessary to the practical enjoyment of our blessings. Those who are before God as members of the new creation cannot have concord or fellowship with those who are members of the old creation. In 2 Cor. 6:1414Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14), where we have the characteristic features of each given, we read, " Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what Concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall. be my people." Between such opposites there can be no. concord; hence, if the believer desire practically to enter-into the joys and privileges of that new creation of which he is, through grace, a member—.—of that relationship in which God has set him-he must " come out from among them and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing." SO doing, he enters practically into the joys that are his. " And I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord almighty." I believe we get distinctly the worldly world presented to us here; in another Scripture we get the religious world. If we want to enjoy God according to the revelation He has been pleased to give of Himself-our Father-and His things, we must come out from the worldly world: separation from it is indispensable. May the exhortation of the first verse of chapter 7. (which verse really belongs to the subject we have been considering in chapter 6.) have its full power in our souls, and that which is exhorted be practically true of each one.
Thus far, then, as to the place of the believer as regards the world in its worldly aspect. Let us now-consider the place His Lord has made for him as regards the world in its religious aspect.
In what we have read in Hebrews we get the Lord Jesus Christ taking His place as to the religious world. From time to time during His life we find Him in that city which was then the center of the religious world-Jerusalem; there in gracious service to those who were in it, but always in separation from. it. Never did He join affinity with it; never did He take a place in it. There is surely deep significance in the language used, the fact stated, in Mark 11 There we find the Lord day after day in Jerusalem, carrying on His gracious service; but invariably the word which closes the history of His day's service is, " when even was come he went out of the city." He could not take any place in it: Had He done so He would have had to judge it on account of its corruption, and He came not to judge but to save. His own very grace was shown by going out of the city at eventide. During His life He was found in the midst of it, but associated with it we never find Him and at His death, where do we see Him? Suffering without the gate.
Jerusalem was the center of that religion which had been appointed by God. Its religion was not a humanly devised thing, nor was it a copy of another religion that had preceded it it was what had been appointed by God Himself. And what was the place the Son of God, in grace a man among men, took in relation to that city -the center and representative of the religion of the day? Outside it. He took that place in His grace and obedience., True, man's hands put Him there, and so demonstrated His own guilt: " By wicked hands was he crucified and slain; " but it was also true that He was " delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." In His life there was never association with the religious world, but in His death there was absolute separation from it.
Now, we have said that the Lord, by taking in grace His people's place on the cross, has made their place in righteousness. What, then, is the result to them of His having suffered outside the gate? He, by that suffering, has made their place outside the camp-that is, outside everything that has to do in a religious way with man in the flesh. What is especially taken up in this passage is this: those addressed were Christians, but who, before they had through grace embraced Christianity, had belonged to Judaism. In embracing Christianity they had given up Judaism and become Christians. The Jews who still adhered to Judaism maintained that they had the true altar (an expression used for a system of worship), and that of it those who gave up Judaism and embraced Christianity had no right to eat. Here the writer denies their assertion, and affirms that not the adherents of Judaism, but those who had given it up-Christians-were those who had the true altar, and that of it the adherents of Judaism-those who serve the tabernacle-have no right to eat.
He then refers to the place in which the sin-offering was consumed, and shows that the Lord Jesus,, the true sin-offering, suffered without the gate, and exhorts the Christians He is addressing to fulfill the responsibility that devolves on them consequent thereon, namely, to occupy the place their Lord by suffering without the gate had made for them. This they were to do by going forth to Him "without the camp." If such were the responsibility of the saint when the religion of the day was adapted to man in the flesh, and had, as such, been set aside by God, what is his responsibility in every day in which the religion of the day assumes a like character, even long after God has set aside that order of Things? It is surely the same: " Go forth to him without the camp."
It may be asked, What constitutes the camp? The answer is, An earthly religious relationship with God outside the sanctuary; a religion established on earth) having priests between the people and God; a religion suited to man in the flesh. Such a religion was Judaism, and from it the true believers are here exhorted to " go forth."
If we turn to Heb. 9 we shall there find the features which the Spirit of God defines as characterizing the camp. " Then, verily, the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.." Here we find one feature, a worldly sanctuary. This is then described as being divided into two parts-verses 2,7-into one of which those who were priests could go; this was called the holy place. But into the second, which was called the holy of holies, the high priest only could go, and that only once a year, and then not without blood; the signification of this being, as the Holy Ghost explains, that " the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest." That is to say, there was no free access to God; God was shut in and man was shut out. In this we find another feature characterizing the camp.
Again, in this ceremonial certain offerings were made. The efficacy of these is here spoken of, and the Spirit of God states that they were ineffectual to make the conscience of the offerer perfect: " Sacrifices that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience." Here we have yet another feature of the camp: in it a perfect, that is, purged, conscience was unknown. Nor was an eternal redemption. Thus we have, as the features characterizing the camp, the religion suited to man in the flesh: a worldly sanctuary; no freedom of access to God, but a body of priests officiating between the people and God; no purged conscience; and no eternal redemption.
In verses 11-15 of the chapter, the Spirit of God unfolds the features that characterize Christianity, where we find quite another order of things to that which we have just been considering. In the first place, there is no worldly sanctuary, no tabernacle made with hands. It is not earth, but heaven itself, which is the sphere of Christian worship. It is in the holiest, the very presence of God Himself, the Christian worships. See chap. 10:19. That is, in Christianity there is free access to God; as another Scripture has it: " By him [Christ] we have access, by one Spirit, to the Father." Again, the sacrifice which Christ has presented to God, His own blood, is effectual to purge the conscience. " How much more shall' the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God." Here a purged' conscience, therefore, we find to be another of the characteristic features of Christianity. But there is yet another characteristic, namely, an eternal redemption. " By his own blood, he [Christ) entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption."
Thus we see that the features characterizing Christianity are free access to God in the holiest, a purged conscience, and eternal redemption, and, as is added in verse 15 of this chapter, an eternal inheritance. By comparing the features characterizing Christianity with those characterizing. Judaism-the camp-the contrast will at once be apparent; and the amalgamation of the two will be seen to be impossible, the two things being in direct opposition the one to the other. To attempt to amalgamate them is to lose both.
It remains for us to see to which description the religious world around us answers. In speaking of the religious world, I do not speak of individuals, but of the religious system of the day. Is it marked by the first distinguishing feature of Christianity, freedom of access to God?
It is not. No doubt God is most truly entitled, as God Almighty, as Most High, etc., but is the religious world of the day characterized by the adoption cry, " Abba, Father "? Individuals in it may no doubt, through God's grace, know the sweetness of that cry, but it is not the characteristic of the religious system of the day; on the contrary, that system is marked by the absence of free access to God, by a worldly sanctuary in which a body of priests is found between the people and God. Again, as to a purged conscience, in this, as in the case of access to God, individuals may through grace possess it; but is it a characteristic feature of the religion around? Alas! it is not; on the contrary, there it is too generally considered presumptuous for any to say they have forgiveness of their sins, have that which is a distinguishing feature of Christianity, a purged conscience. Again, as to an eternal redemption, or an eternal inheritance: is this a characteristic of the religion suited to man in the flesh which is abroad in our day? No. Thus, when we come to examine to which of the features the religious world by which we are surrounded answers-that is, to the features characterizing the camp, or to those Characterizing Christianity-we find it is to the former, and not to the latter, it answers.
And if this be so, where is the place of the Christian with regard to it,? Outside the camp.
" Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth, therefore, unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach." He suffered without the gate for you, and has thereby made your place with Him outside-outside the camp. The believer has no other true place than clean outside it all.
Note, too, the character of that separation. It is not merely negative-there never was a. soul maintained right by mere negative separation you must have something positive. It is, " Let us go forth without the camp "—that is the negative side;" but it is also " unto him," and there we have the positive. It is separation from the evil to Christ. The Lord would have the believer separated from what is contrary to Him, most surely; but He would also have him separated positively to Himself; and if the separation be not to Christ, it is simply another form of sectarianism. What is separated to may be a truth in itself, but such is not a separation according to God, if the separation be anything short of the Christ outside the camp. However right in itself the thing separated to may be, the character of the action is sectarian.
But now let us mark the character and spirit in which the separation is to be carried out. We are to go forth to Him outside the camp, " bearing his reproach." He who is truly separated to Christ outside the camp will be there with a lowly, sorrowing heart, feeling the failure and wreck in the hands of man of that which was once set up so bright and so beautiful by the hand of God Himself-the church of God on earth. He will feel that he, too, has at one time been a party to helping on the failure. Nor should any who may through grace have been led to occupy this place outside the camp imagine they are a testimony to any great thing though in one sense they are a testimony to a great thing, namely, a great ruin. The fact of their' being but a little remnant acting on the truth is a testimony to the ruin of the whole. Therefore if we go forth without- the camp in a spirit which God can own, it will be in a lowly spirit, bearing Christ's reproach. Our personal walk and ways should testify for Him in such a way that, if any sought to reproach Him, they would cast that reproach on us, so fully were we representing Him, answering in our little measure to what the Lord says of Himself in Psa. 69 " The reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me." He so perfectly manifested God here below, that, when man wanted to reproach God, the fell upon Him-Christ.
Now, beloved friends, with what are you connected? with that of which the characteristics of Judaism are the distinguishing features, or with that of which the characteristics of Christianity are the distinguishing features 2 The Lord give you to answer the question in His own blessed presence, and enable you, if connected with the former, to apprehend and fulfill your responsibility by going forth to Him outside the camp-to Him who has by His death made that place for you. Other place, as regards the religious world around, the believer has not, and as long as he fails to occupy this he fails in loyalty to Him who, at the cost of Himself, made that place for Him If through grace you are connected with the latter and already occupy the place your Lord has made for you outside the camp, may it be in that spirit of lowliness and grace, while at the same time faithfulness, of which He can approve.
But another point arises here: can it be that God would have His people remain as isolated individuals here below. Clearly not; else where the force of the exhortation: " Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is "? or, what the meaning of the prophecy uttered by Caiaphas, when he prophesied 'that Jesus should die for that nation, and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." Where we see such statements in Scripture, we cannot but conclude that God must have some ground on which He would have His people gathered.
What, then, is God's ground of gathering for His people in this day? It is the church of God-the body of Christ; that alone is the ground of gathering for God's people. In Eph. 4:44There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:4) we read: " There is one body and one Spirit." Mark the absolute character of the statement.—Though ruin be all' around,-it still abides true that "there is one body and one Spirit." God's ground of gathering abides the same, and no amount of ruin absolves the believer from his personal responsibility. If he be true to his Lord he will recognize this, and walk in the practice of the truth revealed, though in doing so he find himself all but alone.
But, it may be asked, what is this church of God? To arrive at a correct answer to this we must lay aside tradition entirely, and seek God's thoughts from His own word. In the epistle to the Ephesians, chapter 1, we find the apostle Paul prays that the saints "may know what is the hope of his (God's) calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him ' that filleth all in all." Here we find what the church of God is: it is no worldly sanctuary, but that body of which Christ, the living risen Man in glory, is the head.
Of what does that body consist, and how is it formed? It consists of true believers, who, by the baptism of God the Holy Ghost, have been, formed into one; body and united to the 'Head in heaven: This we find in 1 Cor. 12:12,1312For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12‑13). " For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." The body of Christ, then, which is the church of God, is composed of true believers, and of not merely true believers as Such, but of true believers who are indwelt by the Spirit of God, and who are thus of that body 'which He, by His baptism on the day of Pentecost, formed for the first time on earth, and which He has maintained on earth ever since, and still maintains-the church of God, the body of Christ. " There is one body and one Spirit."
Let us now look at the way in which this truth of one body is: declared-the way in which it is shown out. In 1 Cor. 10:1717For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:17) we find these words: " We, being many, are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread (or loaf)." Hero we see that in the one loaf on the Lord's table we have that which symbolizes the unity of the one body: many particles bound together; many parts, one whole. The responsibility of the believer is always according to the character of the relationship in which he is, and God always expects us to act according to what He has made us. Having made us His children by faith in Christ Jesus, our responsibility is to be "imitators of God as dear children.". But, besides this, from that at which we have just been looking we see that God has by His Spirit made us members of that body. of which Christ is the Head, a body formed and maintained here on earth as a present thing by the Holy Ghost. What, then, is the responsibility of the believer in this relationship? We find it laid down in Eph. 4:33Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3): " Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." The way in which this is practically carried out is by walking in the fellowship of that Spirit-the Spirit of holiness, the Spirit of truth. To walk in His fellowship, therefore, the saint must walk in holiness-that is, separation from evil, and in truth-that is, according to the revealed will of God.
We see, then, that God has a ground of gathering for His people in these last days, and that is the church of God, the body of Christ. The One to whom they are gathered is Christ, the one alone center, by the one Spirit:'. To endeavor to " keep the unity of the Spirit " is the responsibility of the believer, and the question for each is: Am I answering to God's revealed truth in this respect? Am I occupying the place our Lord has Made for -me outside the camp-the ground which God has provided? Am I endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?
The mere profession of occupying such a ground is not sufficient. All such profession must be tested, as it is possible to occupy a ground assuming to be God's; without the origin of that ground being divine. It is possible to adopt the theory without the practice, and such has happened. -There are two indispensable requisites to be fulfilled Were any ground can be acknowledged as being God's; and therefore as having a claim on the Saints of God. Those requisites are: (1) That the origin of the ground be divine. (2) 'That the practice characterizing that ground be consistent with the character of Him whose ground it assumes to be. Now, as to the fact God has but one ground:!` There is one body and one Spirit."
The center to which God gathers on that -ground is, one lord: "-There is one Lord." The power by which God gathers is one: one Spirit.
When, therefore, the ground is really divine in its origin-is really God's-saints will be gathered on one ground, to one Lord, by one Spirit. When so gathered they will own, and be in. communion with, all those previously gathered after this manner on this ground. To take a place apart from any so gathered, who-were walking according to the truth, would be to be guilty of the sin of independency, to assume a ground which is unknown in Scripture, and which is a dishonor to the Holy Ghost. It may be that where this occupying of an independent ground has taken place, there may be a great many apparently right things done by those occupying it, but the doing of these will never constitute the ground right; and the first really right action of every saint who is true-hearted to his Lord will be to depart from such a ground.
As to the second requisite. For a ground to be God's, the practice allowed there must correspond not only morally but doctrinally with the character of Him whose ground it is-the Holy God, who gathers by His Holy Spirit to the name of His Holy Son, the Lord Jesus Christ" He that is holy, he that is true." That is, a ground to -be God's must be characterized by holiness and truth.
When, therefore, the origin of a ground assuming to be God's is not divine, or when its 'characteristic features do not correspond with the character of Him whose ground it assumes to be, such a ground has no claim whatever to be recognized as God's ground, even though each individual soul on it were a true believer.
In a day when, alas, such grounds are to be found, having their origin on the one hand in independency and that human arrangement which is a dishonor to the Holy Ghost, or on the other, in a neutrality which manifests indifference to the glory of Christ, it surely becomes every saint of God to search the word in dependence on God, that he may have His mind as to his place and pathway. What is the responsibility of the saint when things are so? We have already seen it To maintain at all cost the unity of the Spirit towards those who occupy such a ground. How is this, unity of the Spirit to be maintained towards such? By not walking, or haying communion, with them; by separation from evil to Christ.
May we ever remember that the occupation of God's ground for His people in these last days is not optional with us. The Lord has at the cost of Himself made His people's place; " the corn of Wheat " has fallen into the ground and died, and now brings forth much fruit. The believer, therefore, is responsible to his Lord to occupy the Ace that Lord has made for him. He owes it to Christ to do so. By neglecting or refusing to do so he fails in loyalty and faithfulness to his Lord, and cannot be held guiltless.
If the religious world around have assumed the place of the camp, the believer's place is outside: to "go forth" is his responsibility, a responsibility he cannot evade without the most solemn consequences.
If Christians, professing to see the evil of the camp, have gone forth professing to occupy a divine ground, and yet are not on that which God has Himself established, and by His Spirit maintains-a ground not characterized by holiness and truth, where there is either indifference to the glory of Christ or dishonor to the Holy Ghost-the place of those true to Christ, of those who fulfill their -responsibility-" Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace "-is outside, apart from such.
We have to remember that if we would be in the current of God's thoughts we must have before us God's Christ above God's people; God's ground, not man's organizations; the unity of God's Spirit, not the unity of Christians; Christ's glory, not Christian likings.
The Lord keep us true and faithful to Himself, through His grace ministered, His strength perfected, in weakness.
May we, walking in the power of the truth and under the guidance of the Spirit, enter more and more fully into the distinctive character of the path and place He has made for us as regards God, Satan, or the world, whether worldly or religious, and answer to it, remembering the cost at which such blessing has been made for us; and waiting for the moment when we shall see face to face the blessed One who accomplished all, and who will Himself come and introduce us into the full fruition of all He has accomplished. ' [J. L.]